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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
Writing a novel based on your favorite albums and musical artist is no easy feat, but JL Civi has successfully created such a labor of love in L Extreme: A Novel Based on the Songs of Benji Hughes. At the heart of the story is a protagonist named Benji (of course), a musician suffering from writer’s block, and on the side, he is also a painter. His roommate and best friend, who goes by the name of C, taunts him saying that he makes his job sound so profoundly artistic when, in reality, Benji writes advertising jingles and paints houses. But what’s the difference when both jobs share practical and creative aspects? Benji needs to write more songs, but he often waits for something to really hit him. And then there is L, Benji’s girlfriend, who can help him get his groove back—or can she? The story is told in a non-chronological fashion where every chapter operates on a premise based on a Hughes' song title, and they all come together to support the plot as a whole.
As an author, JL Civi taps directly into his feelings and admiration for Hughes. Here we have a character based on a real artist projected not in a romanticized way, but as a relatable dude doing dude-ish things. Civi even gives you a surreal experience, as the story has many scenes where the characters talk about what they literally dream of, which is part of the story’s charm. After all, life is a dream where we sometimes doubt if it is all true. Hughes, the artist who inspired this whole story, is no household name, but do check out his music and see if you don’t get captivated. He is one of those rare low-profile artists that pack a punch. L Extreme is a story with a vibe, and with funny sh*t, too. The story has its own power as opposed to what is far too common in plotting styles in fiction. And just like Hughes’ music, this story is just too cool to ignore.